Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Apple MacBook with no Firewire - What Were They Thinking?

Apple released the new MacBook today. The MacBook is the home users version of the MacBook Pro (also updated today).

For the most part, they look like fine updates.

Good new graphics card. Not sure about the glare on the glass of the new monitors but the back-lit keyboard is a nice addition (nicer if I can loose the black surround).

But this is the MacBook. This is for home users. Home users like to edit their home movies. Most camcorders use firewire to transfer movies to computers. But Apple, in it's infinite wisdom (wow, a pun and sarcasm in one phrase!) chose to eliminate the firewire port on the MacBook.

So what use is this home computer for users who want to use iMovie - Apple's software for editing home movies? Now I'd have to buy a pro version (the MacBook Pro comes with a firewire 800 port) to be able to use a home application.

What were they thinking?


sharkle said...

This has to be the weirdest ( and possibly most self destructive ) move apple has ever made, the education market is wide open for expansion using macbooks , but one of the big reasons we would buy them is for use with video editing, now we can’t do this unless we buy the older version macbook and how long will that machine be around ? . schools buy the cheapest cameras as a rule and dv models with firewire are the cheapest and most flexible for our environment, no way we are going to change over to flash or hard drive units just to please apple, I can see us moving to pc’s if firewire is taken out of the equation. I can add a firewire card to most pc laptops. I can’t to macs unless I buy the pro model and how many schools can afford that ? .
a VERY stupid move

Anonymous said...

Talk about shooting yourself--and your loyal customers--in the foot! I'm in the market for a new Macbook but I may settle for a refurb now.

SurferP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SurferP said...

this is much like the first gen. macbook pro's not having firewire 800. let apple know at apple.com/feedback and hopefully they will change it. also, no matte screen option for a professional level notebook like the macbook pro? have you ever tried calibrating a glossy display!? what are you doing apple! there is no reason to bundle imovie, idvd, or garageband with the new macbooks because it renders those apps pretty much useless without firewire capabilities.

Excursioner said...

This would be the perfect laptop, if it only had Fire Wire. I don't find real functional reasons on the user for taking off this incredible port.

Robert Chase said...

I'm actually posting this comment on my new 2.4 ghz Macbook that I bought within an hour of them being in the retail stores. When I saw that they had essentially brought back a form factor similar to the 12 inch Powerbook I had to have one. Yes the port is missing but in the many years that I have owned Powerbooks and Macbooks I have only used it a few times. A 13 inch laptop screen really makes a crummy video editing station because of the smaller screen and smaller input devices. Most of the Firewire hard drives out there also support USB now.

With the extra portability this machine has I would gladly give up the Firewire port. My old 2.2ghz Macbook seems like a boat anchor compared to this new light weight design and yet you don't sacrifice much in power and usability like you do with the Macbook air. And even being lighter than my old Macbook it seems sturdier as well.

Give it a few months. I'm sure someone will come out with a Firewire to USB 2.0 converter. There's a converter for everything else so why not.

SurferP said...

How is the form factor similar to a 12" powerbook? The overall footprint of the new Macbook is exactly the same as the current and old white/black macbook. Just because it's aluminum doesn't make it have a smaller footprint? Just because you have only used firewire a couple of times does not mean a thing. It's THE most widely used connection for CONSUMER external audio and video devices. Forget external hard drives, i don't mind that, it's easy to go and get a usb hard disk for cheap. It's not cheap to go out and buy new video cameras and audio peripherals because apple messed up on the first revision. I do mind the fact that you can't import video via firewire, rendering iMovie all but useless, and that you can't record quality audio into garageband via a firewire audio box. These are CONSUMER applications that should work seamlessly with a CONSUMER laptop. Also, a USB to firewire adapter is impossible. They are completely incompatible with each other. This is going to be like the original Macbook Pro's without FW800. Give Apple a couple of months for a revision and we'll see firewire back in there soon. It's too necessary on a machine that's trying to appeal to the broad consumer market.

Anonymous said...

all of my hardware for my iBook G4 is FW, my audio interface (which i use with garageband), my 2 external HDDs and my DVD writer. All daisy chained off the 1 port.

Now that my iBook is over 4 years old, it is struggling to keep up with me. It's been a great machine for recording music at home and playing it live, and why? - because it has Firewire.

USB can never replace Firewire, it's just useless in comparison. Firewire is much more intelligent and reliable. The only thing i trust USB for is my mouse. It's incredibly slow for moving large files.

With FW you can boot from external drives, daisy chain many devices off one port, use TDM to fix problems and move a lot of data easily, you can even use IP over firewire!

It is the ONLY port on my Mac, that I cannot do without!

Robert Chase said...

"How is the form factor similar to a 12" powerbook? The overall footprint of the new Macbook is exactly the same as the current and old white/black macbook. Just because it's aluminum doesn't make it have a smaller footprint?"

You really should check out the new MacBook in person. Its much ligher and is thinner than the polycarbonate model. Saying its exactly the same is really not correct. The only dimension that is the same is the screen size.

It's a 13 inch form factor notebook that is not built as a "cheap" model. I really liked the smaller form factor of the polycarbonate MacBook as the 15 inch MacBook Pro was just a bit too big for me (try using a Macbook Pro on even a first class airline snack table). I did not like being stuck with a "cheap" notebook though reserving many of the nice features for the Pro. While the Pro still has more features the differences are not as great and the MacBook does not seem like a low end model anymore.

I think perhaps part of the issue here is some people are using Macbooks as their primary system. I have a regular full blown mac workstation at home with many TB of drive space and a ton of ram and power. I have a DV cam with firewire and if I had to shoot footage I would wait to do my capture and edit on my home machine with much more space and power. So a missing firewire port is not really a big deal to me.

They still sell the old polycarbonate models so if a firewire port is that important the old design will do the trick. I paid around $1700 for my Macbook and the pro starts at $1999 so the difference in price is not that great. In fact if you price out a 2.4ghz with 4gb of ram and the Solid State Drive your looking at a Macbook that is more expensive than the entry model Pro model. I have seen the value of the previous generation Macbook Pro's dropping like rocks. If you shopped around Im sure you could get a previous generation Macbook Pro cheaply as well.

DeSoumal (aka Soumyadeep Paul) said...

Dropping firewire implies:

-- cannot use any device that requires sustained data transfer rates: that includes:
--- camcorders with firewire
--- external hard disks with video editing
--- high speed cd/dvd rw
--- audio editing systems / interfaces.

-- no firewire also implies no video editing basically, which implies no Final Cut Pro, Garageband anymore... no iMovie even.

-- USB drops frames during capture and edit

This is the perhaps the most dumb move Apple's marketing team has ever made. Stupid, stupid. They basically lost the massive loyal media consumer base that comes from media world (specially non-US ones as the firewire camcorders are the ones that are used here).

I am switching... no choice.

Anonymous said...

@ Robert Chase:

Anyone who buys RAM as a built to order from Apple, clearly has no sense, or has money to burn. It's so much cheaper to buy it after, from Crucial.

There are a lot of us out here that don't have as much money as you, but still need Firewire, for music, for video, for TDM and just about anything else, it is a consumer interface, not just for pro users.

Apple has essentially made a more limited* consumer notebook than my 4 year old iBook, with a higher price than the last generation Macbook. Foolish!

*In reference to limited connection possibilities and throughput capability. I do of course realise that the new machines have a great graphics card and blah blah blah.....

Robert Chase said...

"Anyone who buys RAM as a built to order from Apple, clearly has no sense, or has money to burn. It's so much cheaper to buy it after, from Crucial."

The difference between 2gb and 4gb on the new Macbook is $150. If $150 is a big deal on a $1299+ notebook perhaps you should re-evaluate your "need" for a new system. I personally am not going to deal with the hassle of 3rd party ram in my Mac for that little amount of money.

Again the old design is still for sale here. It seems like people are more interested in being outraged about Apple "snubbing them" rather than any real logic here. If you really need a firewire port you will just have to do without the sexy improved design or buy the Pro which would be a better machine for editing video anyway.

Don't get me wrong here I'm not an Apple Fanboi at all. I'm still rather steamed at Apple for their shenanigans on my G5's power supply and their cheapened quality in general and OS 10.5 having to be rebooted like a windows machine. There are just "other" more important things to be upset about other than a design change that will affect so very few consumers. Perhaps over half of Macbook users could not tell you what a Firewire port is let alone capture video with it. I seem to remember the same level of people being upset when Apple broke all the SCSI flat bed scanners with all the photography people screaming when they stopped doing SCSI on the G3.

I wish you guys the best of luck getting Apple to reconsider their deletion of Firewire. Even if they bring it back I will be perfectly happy with my USB only Macbook.

Sean said...

@Robert Chase

The thing is the Firewire port is about more than editing video. It's a basic requirement for anyone who wants to do simple multi-channel music on a laptop.

USB2 isn't an option here because it doesn't have the sustained data rate or the low latency of Firewire.
Not all musicians and DJs are professionals, we have to start somewhere.

Apple Jacks said...

Who cares!

I was disappointed until I realized that I wasn't going to get one anyways..haha.

How much video editing is done on a laptop?

If your school needs firewire...buy one system with firewire to do the capturing with and the rest can be macbooks. There's ways around this.

Now why in the hell would you switch to PC to do video editing. A PC won't be able to handle video as nice. You know how unstable XP is compared to os X. What software are you going to us on XP? Windows Home Video editor or something lame like that?

USB 2.0 isn't all that slow. Are you capturing HD or something to get dropped frames? Who does HD on a Macbook.

SurferP said...


to AppleJacks... clearly you have no idea about the audio/video world? about 70% of editors that i know work on "laptops". also, more than 80% of audio engineers i know work on laptops as well. Yeah because i'm going to bring my MacPro tower to a studio session in NYC and then LA the next weekend. this conversation is clearly over your head. oh yeah, so we will use one computer to capture video from 30 different cameras and then distribute the hundreds of gigs of video data to all the students. that's not time consuming or anything (note sarcasm) also your video doesn't have to be HD in order to drop frames. regular 24P or even 30P drops frames over USB. It is not a good medium for sustained transfer speeds. also, the PC have plenty of options for video editing. have you ever heard of Avid? Yeah it's pretty much the industry standard for major networks to edit their video and you guessed it runs on a PC platform. so until you become more educated on what your talking about then please shhhh. removing firewire from an Apple laptop is like removing USB from a windows laptop. It's ridiculous. Grow up buddy!

Robert Chase said...

"Not all musicians and DJs are professionals, we have to start somewhere."

That's probably why Apple still sells that polycarbonate one. And its cheaper than the new model too.

Pastor said...

Obviously there are people posting that do not edit video seriously. No one will edit video on a 13" macbook. But, it is an excellent choice for field work. The beautiful thing was you could take your small macbook, plug it into an external monitor, plug in your fw drives, plug in a full keyboard/mouse, close the lid and voila!! ...a desktop system with enough video horsepower to do serious video editing. The new mbs touted having the Invidia graphic card, but no fw??? Crap! OK then, NO SALE!

Robert Chase said...

"OK then, NO SALE!"

I was lucky enough to get mine when I did. There were several people in the Apple store buying new Macbooks that day sight unseen like I was. They did not even have demo units out.

I have read a few articles indicating that there were some supply issues and that they were hard to come by in Apple stores.

So if you won't buy Apple's new sexy portable someone else will. Just check all the used Macbook Pro's and Macbooks for sale on Craigslist as an example of how many people are upgrading.

Mac Hacker said...

Well, if these cables work and I can get USB 2.0 speeds working then this might be the solution:


Mac Hacker said...

If you don't like cables, there are hubs also available:


I ordered a cable @ $3 though to try it out. If this works, then it's not such a big deal.

You heard it here first: a blogger who actually admits that he might have been wrong.

Martin said...

Did it work whit that cable? Have you tried capture DV from a fire wire camcorder?

Mac Hacker said...

The firewire experiment I tried was with a Canon camcorder. It did not connect to my MacBook through the USB post using the USB-to-firewire cable.

That's one test that failed.

It may have been the camera or it may just not have been a good idea. I will test more and post more as my access to firewire equipment improves.

So far though, the score is 0 for 1.